Movies Are Better than Ever (Whoopee..)

The summer movie season relies heavily on fights, crashes and explosions. And sometimes those on the screen are more interesting than the ones in the box office rankings. But only by a little. I think there should be a name for the summer schadenfreude I feel when a big budget movie, starring vegetable-brained celebrities, written by desperate masochistic scribblers, directed by bombastic tinpot dictators, and marketed and distributed by human leeches, goes up in flames at the cineplex. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and feel the script is the most important part of a movie, but when a $150 million project tanks, I feel as cozy warm as Winnie-the-Pooh.

“Sex and the City.” “Speed Racer.” “Get Smart.” “The Incredible Hulk.” Any of these will cost you money that could be better spent on three delicious beers, one expensive martini, or a pugwash from a crack ho. Where would you rather spend your hard earned $10?

Now, I’m not against whiz-bang flicks. I saw “Iron Man” a couple weeks ago and loved it. They got everything right in that flick.

Tonight the latest entry in the “Indiana Jones” series comes out, 17 years after the last. (Should there be a statute of limitations on a sequel, after which time there should be no implied connection with the originals?) Everyone’s getting all giggly about this one, but I could care less. There’s something repulsive about the idea of Harrison Ford doing this same old schtick again. With his graying, Alfalfa Schweitzer haircut, maybe a remake of “Deliverance” would be more appropriate. As he lunges across the hood of a speeding truck in the trailer (obligatory age joke), he looks like a pensioner at the early bird special diving across the buffet for the last piece of Jell-O.

Did you know the Indiana Jones fedora, bull whip and leather jacket are on display in the Smithsonian? What is there that is groundbreaking or historically important about a big-budget remake of 1940s pulp movies? I read Harrison Ford in the paper saying at Cannes that with this movie, he’d like to help the audience enjoy pure escapist entertainment again. Thanks, Harr, but I don’t think we’ve lost that skill. What’s next, ConAgra reassuring us that it’s okay to like French fries again? America, rest easy–some things you never lose.

And really, must we care that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg want to revisit this hollow idea? Must their perpetual pre-adolescence be the subject of so much attention? They’re skilled filmmakers, certainly, and have nothing else to prove. So quit proving that money trumps everything. Spielberg’s movies, especially the popular ones, always make me feel dirty, like someone’s been pushing all my buttons with fingers covered in coconut oil movie theater “butter”. The earlier Indy movies were only okay in my book. What finally turned me off was the beating heart ripped out of the man in “Temple of Doom.” Part of the charm of the old serials was their fakery, their hamminess. Spielberg, of course, makes everything in a film look beautiful and realistic. So, a beautifully photographed beating heart, or dozens of beautifully massacred soldiers (I don’t care if they are Nazis), or child slavery, or the Nazi chopped up in the propeller, leave me numb and nauseous.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. People ten years younger than me go bananas over Indy and Star Wars because the movies blew their 12-year-old minds. When I was a young teen, the best movies were the complex, experimental kind, not the one that ran the fastest. “MASH”, “Chinatown”, “Taxi Driver”, were all engaging. For escapist fun, our choices were “Cannonball Run,” “Smoky and the Bandit”, et al–movies starring TV actors, directed by journeymen hacks. Which is as it should be. To have someone with Spielberg’s talent remaking Indiana Jones is like Emeril making a meatloaf, or Philip Roth redoing Mike Hammer.

Quit it, just quit it. You’re ruining pop culture for me.